Two of the biggest Super League clubs have confirmed that they have no objection to fans who carry rainbow flags in their games against the Catalans Dragons of Israel Folau: including the team that will be the opposition in their first Super League match in England.
Folau's Catalan debut saw him attempt a victory in the Dragons' 36 to 18 victory over Castleford, but the occasion was marked by claims from some outside fans that they were asked to remove flags that supported the LGBTQ + community after showing them at Stade Gilbert Brutus, where Folau made his first appearance in the rugby league for 10 years.
The Catalans subsequently insisted that they do not have a policy of banning flags, while the Super League said it expected an investigation into the matter to be completed on Monday. Hull FC, which hosts the Catalans in the next game on March 1, said they would not expel fans with rainbow flags. A club spokesman said, "We have nothing against flags of pride in general."
Folau's first game in England would have been against the current Super League champion, St Helens, if next weekend's match had not been postponed due to Santos' commitments at the World Club Challenge. The game will now be reorganized for the end of the year, but they told the Guardian that they would also not ban rainbow flags under any circumstances.
The two teams faced off in a Super League match earlier in the season on Sunday, with the saints warming up for next Saturday's meeting with NRL champion Sydney Roosters, with an impressive victory to end Hull's undefeated game for the new campaign. "We knew we had to play for 80 minutes against these players – we only played for 40," said Hull coach Lee Radford.
His opposite number, Kristian Woolf, had to face problems in the first weeks of his time at the helm of the current champions, including injuries to several players who helped the saints win the Super League title last year. They were still without four from last year's Grand Final winning team, but a dominant display in the second half was enough to guarantee a second victory in three games.
After 6-2 at the break, the Saints went 135 minutes without scoring an attempt after failing to score for the first time in four years last week against Warrington. However, Matty Costello's attempt six minutes after the restart opened the floodgates. Jake Connor kicked in the full hand position on the Saint field and, when Hull touched the ball again, they were 18 points behind.
Costello, Luke Thompson, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and James Bentley crossed in a 10-minute pass that saw the saints lead 24-6, with all four attempts being created at some point by the excellent Jonny Lomax, who made a performance that drew the attention of the new England coach, Shaun Wane, who was present.
"He's a class player and when we were at the top, he was involved," said Woolf. Hull led at the break thanks to an attempt by Carlos Tuimavave. He crossed again in the last quarter, along with Jamie Shaul, but by then the damage had already been done thanks to an exciting passage from the champions.
Hull: Shaul; Naulago, Tuimavave, Fonua, Swift; Connor, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Sao, Jones, Griffin, Ellis. Exchange Johnstone, Matongo, Fash, Bowden.
Try Tuimavave 2, Shaul Goals Sneyd 3
St. Helens: Welsby; Makinson, Naiqama, Costello, Grace; Lomax, Fages; Walmsley, Bentley, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles Interchange McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lees, Paulo, Smith
Tries Costello, Thompson, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Bentley, Smith Goals Makinson 6
Referee L Moore. Presence 12,399.